A Waikato University study has found that Muslim sportswomen often are misrepresented, overlooked or purposely left out of mainstream media coverage.
Comparing and contrasting the hijabi athlete vs the Muslim sportswomen who chooses not to wear the head-covering, PHD grad student Nida Ahmad says that the coverage “often tends to be stereotypical where the hijab is the focus or the barrier and in some cases, there is rarely any coverage… but that remains true among sports coverage of female athletes overall.”
She cites examples of the 2016 Rio Olympics where she found that most of the media focused on female athletes who wore the hijab when in actuality, 14 Muslim women won medals at the games, many of which do not wear a hijab. And last month, United States’ Dalilah Muhammad was the winner of the women’s 400m hurdles race at the IAAF Diamond League international athletics but her Muslim background went unnoticed because she does not wear the hijab.
“Either the hijab is the focus or there tends to be a homogenisation of Muslim sportswomen. A single coverage of Muslim sportswomen doesn’t necessarily speak for everyone,” says the grad student.
But it’s not all bad news for these atheletes as Ms. Ahmad says there is fairer reporting on social media. “My research on the digital lives of Muslim sportswomen reveals the multiple and nuanced ways they are taking matters of representation into their own hands, and in so doing, are challenging dominant portrayals of Muslim women in the mass media.”